Learning How to Forage: Socially Biased Individual Learning and "Niche Construction" in Wild Capuchin Monkeys

This chapter aims to provide a way to think about how naïve monkeys become proficient foragers. In general, young primates (at the time of weaning and for some period thereafter) are less effective foragers than adults of their species. Primates have complex diets, live highly social lives, and spend months to years as juveniles. These characteristics, taken together, suggest that social partners may influence how young monkeys learn about food and feeding. Much research has addressed psychological processes occurring in the short term and within the learner that allow an individual to match another's behavior (such as imitation, emulation, or social facilitation; for review of these processes in relation to foraging, see Rapaport and Brown 2008, and also xxxx this volume). Here, we adopt an ethologically-grounded approach to social learning, focussing on how young individuals acquire foraging skills in natural contexts. One of our major tasks is to explain why, in the case of the most difficult foraging tasks, young animals engage in patently ineffective foraging behaviors over some period of time while they are acquiring the skill. During most of this extended period, their efforts are not reinforced in the usual manner (by obtaining food). Thus other conditions must support persistent practice. We argue that other monkeys, through their own foraging, construct a niche for young capuchins (sensu Odling-Smee et al., 2003), by providing young monkeys with the opportunity and/or the motivation to practice foraging for those foods that are difficult to find or difficult to obtain.

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Contributo in volume
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Visalberghi, Elisabetta
Fragaszy, D.
Harvard University Press, Cambridge [MA], USA
The Primate Mind: built to connect with other minds, pp. 81–98. Cambridge [MA]: Harvard University Press, 2012
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